Cunha Ferreira / Atlas of Architectural Design in Built Heritage

Atlas of Architectural Design in Built Heritage Pedagogies from the School of Porto

Author: Teresa Cunha Ferreira, Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto e Centro de Estudos de Arquitectura e Urbanismo

In a world marked by an unprecedented consumption of resources, the cycle of continuous demolition-replacement of construction has irreversible cultural, environmental and social consequences, recently aggravated by natural disasters and climate change. As stated in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UNESCO, 2016) the conservation, reuse and enhancement of architectural and urban heritage is not only a cultural aim, but also a social, ecological and economical demand. However, in the fields of urbanism/architecture/construction, there is still greater investment on new constructions, instead of reusing, enhancing and maintaining existing built heritage as a key resource for sustainable development and for endorsing local identities and collective memories. Also, despite some attempts (ICOMOS, 2019), there is still a lack of international theoretical and methodological frameworks of reference heritage design practices to counteract those strategies. Concurrently, knowledge is scattered, particularly about the last few decades, when scientific and technological advances have created new possibilities for architectural heritage design.

Portugal is no exception and, there is a large exceedance of new buildings and the conservation sector is sharply under the European countries. Moreover, despite its long historical stratification and its 3,811 listed properties, there are no systematic studies about architectural design practices in cultural heritage in the last decades. While there are some studies about the history of conservation in Portugal from the late 19th century to the end of the dictatorship (1974), no global critical and technical documentation has yet been produced about the intense activity of interventions on architectural heritage in the last forty years. In 1980, the creation of IPPC (Portuguese Institute of Cultural Heritage, answerable to the Ministry of Culture), marked a key moment in the public policies of cultural heritage management in Portugal and the affirmation of contemporary architectural design in cultural heritage (Aguiar et al., 2019). What is now needed is a systematic compilation on processes and methods for architectural heritage design that allows for their translation into pedagogical use and improved practices in the future.

In this context, the Design Driven Research (DDR) project “Atlas of Architectural Design in Built Heritage: contributions from the School of Porto (H-ATLAS.Porto) arises from architectural design practices produced by School of Porto architects, including such renowned figures as Fernando Távora, Alvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto Moura and Alcino Soutinho, among others, who left an important legacy and pedagogy in architectural heritage intervention (Ferreira 2018). However, this knowledge has hitherto been scattered and with 'design memories' at danger of being lost over time. Therefore, H-Atlas.Porto strives to compile, systematize and disseminate these representative practices and thereby improving future teaching and practice on architectural heritage.

The so-called “School of Porto” is an indisputable reference in the national and international context and was originally associated with the Fine Arts School of Porto (presently Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto). It appears firstly nationally applied with the sense of architectural tendency (Figueira, 2002) and internationally coined by Kenneth Frampton (Frampton, 1991) after having previously included Álvaro Siza in the restricted group of architects that embody the designation of critical regionalism (Frampton, 1980). With rare exceptions (Ferreira, 2018; Castañon et al, 2019) the School of Porto has been mostly studied from the point of view of new constructions or monographic publications with no specific focus on architectural heritage design. Thus, H-ATLAS.Porto will be an opportunity to create deeper knowledge on reference practices on built heritage, as well as laying the foundations for a future Atlas of Architectural Design in Portugal. Through the analysis of primary and secondary sources, the research project will inventory and inquiry on architectural heritage design projects of different generations of architects that have marked the praxis of the School of Porto: Alfredo Viana de Lima (1903-1991), Januário Godinho de Almeida (1910-1990), Jorge Gigante (1919-1994), Fernando Távora (1923-2005), Alcino Soutinho (1930-2013), Alvaro Siza (1933-), Eduardo Souto de Moura (1953-), among others.

H-ATLAS.Porto intends to fill the gap in the representation and communication of interventions on built heritage that are generally otherwise limited to only illustrating the final results of the work, correspondingly omitting the entire process of research, survey, design and site construction, and therefore only ever unclear and of little assistance to designers. In contrast, H-Atlas.Porto seeks to compile, produce and make available operative information both for students undergoing training and for architectural practices on existing buildings. This is all enabled by delving deeper into the strategies of transformation and reuse, including technical drawings (plans, sections, elevations, red/yellow, construction details), as well as other graphic, photographic and textual documentation.

The research methodology is based on the cross-referenced analysis of 'indirect sources' (documentary and bibliographical research, interviews) and 'direct sources' (observation, analysis and interpretation of the works). Adopting drawing as a research tool, graphic contents are produced, including reds and yellows (essential for any deep understanding and communication of the transformations effectively carried out on the pre-existence), interpretative schemes of the construction phases and of the compositional and geometric principles in the relationship between new and old, and even of the analysis of constructive details.

Hence, by introducing a novel perspective and understanding in relation to that already published, H-Atlas.Porto intends to build a narrative on the history of the design process: illustrating the pre-existence and previous studies, illustrating the design strategy, design reports, drawings of the previous state, the demolitions and additions (red/yellow) as built drawings, photographs of building site, construction details, photographs of the built work, the critical reception, and new/old comparative illustrations. As Carlo Scarpa acknowledges, "the 'final solution' is not always as important as the 'critical points' that are solved during the project and on the construction site" (Scarpa, 1984).

As any work of architecture results from the collective inputs of different participants and not just a single author, this project includes interviews with several design and building specialists (collaborators, clients, critics, etc.), whose testimonies return precious information on the conception, design and construction processes. Furthermore, this novelty and contribution is further highlighted by a contextualization which allows for its positioning against the state of the art in this field of knowledge.

The selection of the works presented is based on a combination of several criteria: works that are more representative of the intervention practices in the built heritage (but with new sources and interpretive perspectives) and less publicized or unpublished works. Hence, this research project will fill gaps in the existing literature as well as disseminate unpublished documentation and outline new perspectives on architectural heritage design by architects from the School of Porto and thus provide new sources for architectural design practice and pedagogy.

H-Atlas.Porto integrates the collaboration of Master’s and PhD students and will undertake the dissemination of novel graphic documentation (drawings, photos, schemes, details) through a web platform with interactive mapping, virtual tours, before-after visualizations and other collaborative digital tools. This platform will foster dialogue between researchers, students, institutions, and the broader virtual and local communities.

This DDR Project is thus designed as both a tool kit to assist students and practitioners and an overarching narrative, capturing trends and positioning this body of work within the wider culture of architecture and heritage intervention.

Alvaro Siza, Casa Alcino Cardoso, 1971 (drawings by Eleonora Fantini)

Figure 1: Alvaro Siza, Casa Alcino Cardoso, 1971 (drawings by Eleonora Fantini)

Fernando Távora, Old City Council (Casa dos 24), 1995-2004 (drawings by Eleonora Fantini)

Figure 2: Fernando Távora, Old City Council (Casa dos 24), 1995-2004 (drawings by Eleonora Fantini)

Fernando Távora, House in Rua Nova, 1983-1985. 1) Drawings before, 2) Addition/demolition, 3) As built (drawings by David Ordoñez-Castañon).
Fernando Távora, House in Rua Nova, 1983-1985. 1) Drawings before, 2) Addition/demolition, 3) As built (drawings by David Ordoñez-Castañon).
Fernando Távora, House in Rua Nova, 1983-1985. 1) Drawings before, 2) Addition/demolition, 3) As built (drawings by David Ordoñez-Castañon).

Figure 3: Fernando Távora, House in Rua Nova, 1983-1985. 1) Drawings before, 2) Addition/demolition, 3) As built (drawings by David Ordoñez-Castañon).


The study was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through COMPETE 2020 – Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation (OPCI) and by national funds through FCT, under the scope of the POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007744 project and FCT Project EXPL/ART-DAQ/1551/2021.


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